1) Overall updates (since the last update)
a. . soil day Celebration
The World Soil Day was celebrated under the leadership of the people’s organization in 1041 villages of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. The celebrations began in the morning when the members of our community institutions viz. Saksham Samuh, Gram Swaraj Samuh and Bal Swaraj Samuh of the villages joined hands with the villagers and took part in the ‘Prabhat Pheri’ - the morning procession. During the procession, slogans related to soil and water conservation were raised and folk songs that carried the awareness messages were sung. The rally passed through the main areas of the village and reached the centre of the village. There, the children, youth and elders gathered with enthusiasm, with soils in their hands.
4.1. Soil and Seeds Rangoli
The community members creatively designed vibrant and eye-catching Rangoli using soil, seeds, flowers, grains, and vegetables brought to the event. At the center of these Rangolis, an earthen pot (Kalash) filled with water, adorned with a coconut—an emblem of prosperity in tribal customs was placed for worship.
4.2. Community Dialogue on Soil and Water
Following the vibrant Rangoli creation, Vaagdhara members organized insightful discussions aimed at educating villagers about the cultural significance of soil and water in tribal communities. Traditional practices and folk songs related to soil were utilized for this purpose. Women associated with the Saksham Samuh passionately addressed issues concerning soil and water conservation due to unsustainable agricultural practices.
Following were the key topics of the discussion:
4.2.1. Land Preparation
The soil must be loosened when preparing the field. It is important not to plough too deeply and only as required so as not to disturb the soil structure too much.
Bullocks are helpful for minimal ploughing.
Heavy machinery also shouldn’t be used as it compacts the soil.
Adopt advanced irrigation methods like drip or sprinkler irrigation.
Dams and Khantis help to control the water flow.
Planting various types of trees and plants at the ridge helps not only to preserve the moisture in the soil but also helps to prevent soil erosion in the event of flooding.
4.2.3 Crop and Seed Selection
Select local crops according to the soil condition (light soil or heavy soil) and use only local seeds.
Choose crops which are suitable for the local environment and available resources.
Crops like cotton or sugarcane require a lot of water and nutrients which makes them less suitable than other crops. Adopt crop rotation, do not plant the same type of crop continuously on one field. Adopt mixed farming in which one crop complements another crop.
4.2.4. Soil Coverage
Introduce cover crops like grass or mash on the fields. Plant perennial crops.
Plant permanent bushes on the ridge like custard apple or henna as they will help to prevent soil erosion and generate additional income.
4.2.5. Pest Management
Use organic pesticides and organic fertilizers. Do not use poisonous chemical fertilizers and pesticides in the field.
The crop needs proper nutrient management to grow accordingly.
The World Soil Day celebrations marked a significant milestone with awareness programs conducted across 1041 villages by 311 Gram Panchayats, led by 26 Agriculture and Tribal Swaraj organizations spanning Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Gujarat. These initiatives aimed to enlighten local communities on the indispensable connection between soil and water, pivotal for fostering sustainable and resilient agricultural and food systems. Through community engagement, crucial insights were disseminated on key aspects:
Soil-Water Relationship: Highlighting the inseparable link between soil and water, fundamental for sustaining life and fostering ecosystems critical for agriculture.
Soil Erosion Concerns: Addressing the mounting risks posed by soil erosion, pollution, and deforestation, underscoring the urgent need for heightened awareness and concerted action.
Biodiversity Protection: Advocating for the safeguarding of soil ecosystems to preserve both above-ground and below-ground biodiversity.
Climate Change Mitigation: Recognizing soil as a potent weapon against climate change, endorsing sustainable practices like agroforestry and organic farming to sequester carbon and enhance climate resilience. Embracing a deeper connection with the soil and implementing sustainable measures holds promise for nurturing a healthier and more robust planet for present and future generations.
b. Krishi Evam Adivasi Swaraj Samagam (A call to Rejuvenate Tribal Sovereignty)
With the aim to engage the community members to discuss their practices and issues with key stakeholders and rejuvenate the tribal sovereignty, thousands of indigenous farming community members gathered in ‘Krishi evam Adivasi Swaraj Conclave-2023’ an annual colloquium at the famed Tripura Sundari in Banswara, Rajasthan.
The Key Objectives of the Samagam as mentioned below:-
• Encourage the convergence of collective wisdom, facilitating a meaningful exchange of ideas and the establishment of linkages with key stakeholders.
• Fostering a sense of ownership among community members through the ‘Jan Manch’ model in the process of identifying potential issues and disseminating them to various stakeholders.
• Consolidate and disseminate the outcomes of discussions on effective practices along with potential local-level solutions for the identified challenges, at both the state and national level.
This 3-day event organized between September 20-22, 2023 observed the participation and contribution by thousands of men and women from indigenous community, wherein they discussed and deliberated on the four themes:
• Integrated Actions for Seed, Food, and Plantation Diversity led Nutrition Security in Context of Climate Change
• Efficiency of Energy, Water and Soil Management for Sustainability in the Context of Climate Change
• Leadership Building of Youth for Climate Change Actions and Sovereignty
• Rejuvenation of Tribal Culture and Circular Lifestyle in Context of Climate Change
Conclusion :This conclave provided the community members a platform to identify and discuss their key issues with the subject experts. Jan Manch members discussed with the experts of different viewpoints such as academics, scientists, government officials, political leaders, independent practitioners, decision makers from Samaj, Sarkar and Bazar (Society, Government and Market) as well as deliberated amongst themselves and within their larger communities, and finally presented their recommendations through Swaraj Agrah Patra. This conclave boosted youth involvement by shedding light on their concerns, offering a more profound comprehension of government programs and policy matters, ultimately resulting in the creation of an impactful Agrah Patra.
Based on community recommendations, a series of action research and data analysis initiatives will be undertaken. These efforts will be aimed to inform and shape policy recommendations in the future.
Key Recommendations by the Community:
• Promote production of high-quality indigenous seeds through traditional methods in order to reduce the impact of climate change and ensure the livelihood and food security of farming families. Establishment of Community Seed Management Centres at Panchayat level to make farmers self-reliant in seed matter.
• Special programmes to promote traditional food crops need to be designed and implemented in the tribal region. Promotion of mixed cropping to enhance food diversity and establishment of integrated farming training centres in the region.
• Integration of the components of solar energy and biogas into lifestyle of indigenous communities for establishing regularity of power supply in tribal areas.
• Promote Rabi crop cultivation through soil and water conservation to strengthen local livelihoods and prevent migration. A comprehensive water conservation and minimal irrigation program need to be planned.
• Designing of skill development programs integrated with traditional farming practices to strengthen local livelihoods for reintegrating youth into agriculture.
• Special programs should be prepared for tribal youth to provide opportunities for local livelihoods through activities such as animal husbandry, organic farming, local seed production, participation in local markets, and eco-tourism, among others.
• Incorporate aspects of tribal lifestyle viz. food habits, living style, community interactions, outfits, arts, traditional farming, etc., into education so that traditional knowledge can be passed on to the next generation through various programs.
• Development of programmes to reinstate the circular nature of agriculture in tribal culture supporting various aspects of farming e.g., composting, seed treatment, encouraging women’s groups for organic manure production, promoting bio-gas programs, soil improvement etc.
c. Mahi Mahila Kisan Manch
Aiming towards strengthening the principles of Swaraj at the grassroots level, tribal women farmers from 27 ‘Krishi Evam Adivasi Swaraj Sangathan’ created 3 state level forum ‘Mahi Mahila Kisan Manch’ in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh & Gujarat states. To bolster the representation of these tribal women farmers from 1041 villages across the 3 states, 42 Women Leaders were also selected through a participatory process facilitated by VAAGDHARA.
d. . Facilitating dialogues with Village Development Committees
6246 Village Development Committee (VDC) meetings focused on fostering a constructive dialogue regarding agro-ecological interventions in the community. These dialogues served as a platform for exchanging ideas and collaboratively planning initiatives that align with sustainable agricultural practices. The broad outputs of these dialogues which been facilitated included the identification of key agro-ecological interventions, such as Sustainable farming components , water conservation methods, and crop diversification. The VDCs, through these discussions, aimed to enhance community resilience, promote environmental sustainability, and improve overall agricultural productivity through adopting the components in their fields.
In terms of outcomes, the community expressed aspirations for increased food security, reduced dependency on chemical inputs, involvement in allied activities related to soil, water components and the preservation of local biodiversity. Additionally, the VDC monthly interactions facilitated a deeper understanding of the community’s views on the importance of ecological balance, acknowledging the interconnectedness of agriculture and the environment. Through this participatory approach, the VDC strived to empower the community, ensuring that the implemented interventions resonated with their values and contributed to a more sustainable and prosperous future.
e. Developing the design Resource and Need Assessment Score Board (RNASB) through a participative approach
The process outlined for developing the Resource and Need Assessment Score Board (RNASB) demonstrated a systematic and participatory approach, ensuring its effectiveness in addressing community and family needs. The initial step involved a comprehensive review of existing RSAB tools and design, related to agriculture as learning from past experiences and incorporating best practices. Following this, we have collected baseline data covering the aspects of Sustainable integrated farming concepts, though analysis is still in process.
Though the tools related to beej swaraj, Jal swaraj and mitti swaraj was structured, reflecting a thoughtful consideration of the tool’s usability and relevance, but technical team working on other components on which Vaagdhara is naïve.
The development of the Resource and Need Assessment Score Board (RNASB) for Beej Swaraj, Jal Swaraj, and Mitti Swaraj involved a participative approach aimed at capturing the diverse perspectives and requirements of the community. In the context of Beej Swaraj (Seed Sovereignty), the process began with inclusive discussions on local seed varieties, traditional farming practices, and the preservation of indigenous seeds. Farmers, agricultural experts, and community members actively engaged in mapping out the current seed landscape, identifying strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to seed sovereignty. Similarly, Jal Swaraj (Water Sovereignty) was addressed through collaborative efforts to assess water availability, usage patterns, and conservation practices. The participatory approach involved dialogue on sustainable water management, rainwater harvesting, and irrigation methods, ensuring that the design of the RNASB reflected the community’s water-related needs and aspirations. For Mitti Swaraj (Soil Sovereignty), the process involved evaluating soil health, nutrient content, and erosion prevention strategies. Local farmers and environmental experts contributed their insights to design the RNASB, integrating community knowledge with scientific inputs. The participative approach ensured that the score board was a comprehensive tool tailored to the specific context of the community, promoting a sense of ownership and alignment with the principles of Beej Swaraj, Jal Swaraj, and Mitti Swaraj for sustainable and self-reliant agricultural practices.
The sampling idea for pilot testing suggested a pragmatic approach to implementation, allowing for a controlled introduction of the RNASB in selected 10 GP areas. This facilitated the identification of potential challenges and improvements before full-scale implementation. The pilot phase, including feedback collection and necessary adjustments, showcases a commitment to adaptability and responsiveness to community needs.
The subsequent steps which we are planning to involving a thorough review and finalization of the RNASB, incorporating lessons learned from the pilot.
f. . Exposure sessions with Women Farmers
The Exposure Session with Women Farmers on Resilient Sustainable Livelihoods was conducted in a participatory and empowering manner, aiming to evolve 158 women as resource persons in the project area, reflecting their active role in shaping sustainable livelihoods. The exposure was provided in community spaces and women-centric forums within the project area.
The necessity for this exposure session stemmed from the recognition of the pivotal role that women farmers play in rural communities and agriculture. It aimed to equip them with knowledge and skills related to resilient and sustainable livelihood practices. The exposure session delved into various aspects, including sustainable farming components, mixed cropping practices, soil testing methodologies and market linkages. By providing this exposure, we sought to empower these women farmers to become key influencers and change agents within their communities.
During discussions, we have found that the aspirations of the women farmers were diverse and rooted in the desire for increased economic independence, enhanced agricultural productivity, and the adoption of sustainable farming methods. Many aspired to contribute to the overall development of their communities and to be recognized as leaders in promoting sustainable way of living.
The output of the exposure session was the evolution of 158 women as resource persons who not only gained valuable knowledge but also developed the confidence and skills needed to share this knowledge with their peers. This ripple effect within the community is a significant outcome, fostering the dissemination of sustainable practices and creating a network of empowered women farmers. Additionally, the exposure session contributed to building a sense of solidarity and collaboration among the women, further strengthening their collective impact on resilient and sustainable livelihoods.
2) Progress on the goals listed while on-boarding
•Developed a comprehensive survey tool to collect data on existing resources and agricultural needs within the 10 identified Gram Panchayats.
•Categorize data into key areas, including water availability, soil health, crop diversity, livestock, and community infrastructure.
•Establishing partnership with Village development committees, Farmers and other community stakeholders to raise awareness about Agroecological Regenerative Interventions.
•In a significant stride towards women’s empowerment and community development, Mahi Mahila Vikas Manch proudly announces the establishment of its core institution.
3) Any challenges
•The complexity of the assessment framework, including the number of parameters, depth of analysis, and integration of various data sources, can significantly impact the time needed. A more intricate framework may require more time for design and implementation.
•The expertise of the Vaagdhara team in agriculture, animal husbandry, and allied systems is advantageous. However, the introduction of a new assessment tool may still require testing, refining, and adapting to the unique context, potentially extending the development timeline.
•The repetitive nature of testing and refining the assessment tool is crucial for its effectiveness. The team may need to conduct pilot assessments, gather feedback, and make adjustments based on real-world implementation, which can extend the development timeline but is essential for a robust tool.
4) Any new avenues of collaboration (with other Grantees of RCF or other NPO/NGO)
There is a collaboration between Vaagdhara and HUF on a transformative initiative focusing on “Water-Use Optimization for Sustainable Agriculture in the Mahi Basin.” This collaboration brings together the expertise and resources of two organizations dedicated to fostering sustainable practices and agroecological interventions in the region. The project aims to address the critical issue of water usage in agriculture, a key factor influencing the success of agroecological interventions. By leveraging innovative strategies and harnessing the collective knowledge of both Vaagdhara and HUF, aspiring to create a comprehensive model for water-use optimization that aligns with the principles of sustainability.
- Highlights from the initiatives being undertaken as part of your organization
Conferred with the Prestigious State Level GANDHI SADBHAWANA SAMMAN – 2023 by the State Government – 02, Oct, 2023
Conferred with the prestigious National Level COMMUNITY RADIO AWARD – 2023 by MIB, GOI – under the theme - Sustainability Model Awards.
Abstract on “Prospects of Sustainable Food Security in Tribal Areas with Improvement in Soil Health by Adopting Practices of Summer Green Gram Cultivation” published in GSOIL4N proceedings.
Written Statements published (UN – ECOSOC)
COP28 Side Event
Farmer led action Research have been done by Technical team which included the topics:
a. Organic seed treatment on different types of crops by different methods to study the effects on the plant, fruit, flowering and production.The treated seed is less affected to fungal and bacterial infections, protects the crop from pest infestation and increases the possibilities of uniformity in seed production. As a result, the research study shows that plant production has increased by 18%.
b. The effect of different types of land (sloping/ plain/ waste land) on the production of minor millets such as Ragi, Kuri, Cheena, and Kang. Cheena (Prosol millet) and Kang (foxtail millet) are comparatively more tolerant than Ragi (finger millet) and Kuri and have a comparatively high production on slopes and fallow land. Ragi and Kuri, on the other hand, have a higher yield on the plain. All four varieties are drought tolerant.
c. The traditional varieties of white maize, til, arhar, black gram, chilli, chavla, kuri, ragi, cheena and kang were studied and their genotypic characteristics recorded. This helps to understand the plant diseases and growth patterns of these traditional crop varieties.
d. Hangadi Kheti - Man-days spent in Hangadi Kheti and livelihood derived from Hangadi Kheti (yield and market value).By cultivating Hangadi, a family gets 3 to 4 types of local produce every month. In the kharif season (July to December), growing hangadi on one bigha of land obtains 13 days of human labour per month. (78 days in total).
It results in income benefits to the tune of Rs. 2000 to 5000/bigha while reducing the risk of climate change-induced weather variability.
6) Outcomes you are chasing for the next 6 months (these can remain the same if unchanged since the last update)
•A methodology is evolved where the community is enabled to identify the resources and track these parameters themselves.
•Development Plans of Gram Panchayat incorporates agro ecological regenerative initiatives and public investment according to the community needs is increased in the villages.
7) KPIs (please use this section to let us know of the impact and reach of your work since the last update)
Here are some key performance indicators (KPIs) highlighting the impact and reach of the Rain Matters initiative since the last update:
Increased community engagement by 22%, measured through the attendance and active participation in village development committees related to Agro ecological interventions. Mahi Mahila Vikas Manch has further established which shows active involvement ofc women institution.
- Sustainable Agricultural Practices:
Successfully influenced a 6% expansion in the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices in Rabi and Kharif crops. This be measured through number of farmers who have been adopted the practices during farmer field school.
These KPIs showcase the tangible outcomes and growing influence of the Rain Matters initiative, emphasizing its commitment to fostering sustainable agricultural practices and building resilient communities in the face of evolving environmental challenges.
8) Can Rainmatter be of help with anything at all
Vaagdhara requires support in expanding ecosystem into the larger framework where we able to see comprehensive model for their sustainable living.
Inclusion of “Awaas Swaraj” into the concept to add sustainable housing as an important indictaor into the ecosystem.
9) Any additional details you would like to provide
Vaagdhara is working towards living income analysis assess whether individuals or households have sufficient income to meet their basic needs, such as food, shelter, and healthcare, income distribution. For calculating the cost of a decent standard of living, the methodology details costing approaches for the following areas:
Decent food - Local market surveys, model diets, and secondary data
Decent Housing - Rental costs, building costs, contextual and international housing
standards & secondary data.
Non-food non-housing (such as school and clothing) - Focus groups and secondary
Other Socializing expenses – Travel, Marriages, Communication, etc.
The margin for unforeseen events – Drought, Fire, healthshocks, etc. (dependent on
The survey has been in process and will share the analysis soon.
10) Please also share any images or videos that you have documented as part of your work